Neighborhood: Park Slope, Brooklyn
Middle School: Park Slope Collegiate
High School: Park Slope Collegiate (first and only choice)
It was September 2013, the first day of sixth grade at Park Slope Collegiate. Shuffling through the hallway with his new classmates, Ethan Moskowitz remembers nervously looking up from his feet at the older high school students as they gawked and made comments about him and his friends, the cute newcomers.
As they turned the corner into the cafeteria, Ethan overheard an older student say, “Why are there white kids at the school?”
Now an eighth grader preparing for high school, Ethan, 13, looks back on this first day and laughs. An intimidating first day of school evolved into a middle school experience that taught him how to embrace diversity in a school setting.
Park Slope Collegiate, a small, progressive 6th through 12th grade school in Brooklyn, has become a laboratory for school integration since 2013 when a group of District 15 families began enrolling their 6th graders at Collegiate due to a lack of seats in other popular middle schools in the area. Principal Jill Bloomberg and a group of parents including Ethan’s mother, Melissa Moskowitz, have become committed to encouraging cultural and academic diversity in the school as the neighborhood continues to gentrify.
Unlike the racial make-up of the surrounding neighborhood, which is majority white according to city data, Collegiate serves a student population that is majority black and Hispanic. At the moment, 10 percent of the 450 students are white; 8 percent Asian, while the majority are Black and Hispanic at 39 percent each.
“My mom was the brains behind the whole thing,” Ethan said in reference to his decision to attend Park Slope Collegiate. “I didn’t know where the school was, but my mom worked there and we lived two blocks away from the school so it made sense.”
Melissa Moskowitz, a co-teacher at Cobble Hill High School, had been doing research at Park Slope Collegiate while studying at Banks Street College of Education in 2012. Now a member of the PTA at Collegiate, Moskowitz has been active in her children’s education, enrolling both her son and daughter Drew, 11, at Park Slope Collegiate. This school year, when it came time for Ethan to choose a high school, the answer was a no brainer: Park Slope Collegiate.
School administrators and parents are worried whether the diversity they are trying to build in the middle school will hold in the high school. An unzoned school, Collegiate’s admissions priority goes to continuing 8th graders like Ethan, then to District 15 students and students across all of New York City’s boroughs.
Ethan grappled with the fact that some of his best friends and closest peers were choosing to leave Collegiate for a “better,” “more competitive” high school like Brooklyn Tech, Edward R. Murrow High School, or Millenium High School located just downstairs from Collegiate in the giant John Jay Educational Complex.
He was disappointed that his friends buckled under parental pressure to apply elsewhere, but like his mom, he believes he’ll continue to receive a quality education with teachers and a community that know him well.
“I’m happy here,” Ethan said. “It’s not about competitiveness or getting ahead of the person next you.”